June 5th, 2017

The Start of Something Big

This post is part of an ongoing series featuring items from the exhibition Open House 75: Houghton Staff Select on display in the Edison and Newman Room from May 8 – August 19, 2017.

MS Hyde 50 (38)In 1746, a consortium of London publishers approached Samuel Johnson, a rising star in the literary world, with a proposal: write an English dictionary. In the end, Johnson was equal to the task, but only after nine years of mammoth intellectual labor. Although the practice of lexicography has advanced considerably in the centuries since, Johnson’s Dictionary is still regarded as a tour de force, appreciated for the wit and trenchancy of its definitions, and the erudition underlying its illustrative quotations. Samuel Johnson’s stamp on the writing of English is profound and lasting.

Everything started from this modest manuscript, now visibly cracked from the corrosive ink used to write it. Over the course of a handful of pages Johnson lays out his plan for a work that would grow to two enormous volumes: how he will choose the words to define, how he will determine their proper spelling, from which authors he will draw quotations.
Keep reading →

June 1st, 2017

Collections Now Available for Research: June 2017

Houghton Library is pleased to announce that the following collections now have descriptive finding aids and are available for research in the library’s reading room.

American Repertory Theatre Records, 1979-2012 (MS Thr 1605) – processed by Adrien Hilton, Jennifer Lyons, and Dale Stinchcomb

Fredric Woodbridge Wilson Collection of Costume Designs for Theater, Musical Comedy, Pantomime and Opera, 1841-1909 (MS Thr 1625) – processed by Irina Klyagin

Donald Hyde and Mary Hyde Eccles Iconography Collection, circa 1700-1999 (MS Hyde 100) – processed by Rick Stattler, edited and uploaded by Adrien Hilton

Jamaica Kincaid papers, circa 1950-2013 (MS Am 3097) – processed by Melanie Wisner

Edward Jackson Lowell Papers, 1881-1893 (MS Am 800.2) – processed by Ashley Nary

Murray Anthony Potter Papers, circa 1900-1915 (MS Am 863-MS Am 871) – processed by Ashley Nary

Hilary Putnam Papers, circa 1950-2012 (MS Am 3126) – processed by Melanie Wisner

Simon Vinkenoog Papers Concerning Timothy Leary and Hallucinogenic Drugs, 1960-2001 (MS Dutch 22) – processed by Susan Wyssen

May 24th, 2017

Most Creative: John Lithgow’s Harvard Years

It’s been a year of milestones for actor and Harvard alum John Lithgow, who this week celebrates his 50th class reunion. Last April, he was fêted with the 2017 Harvard Arts Medal at the kick-off of Arts First, the annual festival of student creativity he helped launch 25 years ago.

Watercolor of Winston Churchill in The Crown by John Lithgow
Self-portrait as Winston Churchill in The Crown. 2016MT-55

Fresh from on-screen successes in Netflix’s The Crown and NBC’s crime mockumentary Trial & Error, Lithgow has earned a reputation as a consummate performer; his two Tonys, five Emmys, and a laundry list of accolades make it impossible to imagine otherwise. Yet the former history and literature major once nursed ambitions of becoming a painter. His undergraduate years, he recalls, were “the most active and creative of my life.”

The artistic license of those formative years has proven impossible to recreate. “It was the last time I worked in the theater for the pure, unfettered joy of it,” he has written. “Some of the work was excellent, much of it was dreadful, but its quality was never really the point. Joy was the point.”

Here’s a joyous look back at just a few of Lithgow’s extracurricular entanglements, compiled from his memoir, Drama: An Actor’s Education, with illustrations from the Harvard Theatre Collection.

Keep reading →

May 16th, 2017

Open House 75: Houghton Library Staff Select

The 75th anniversary of Houghton Library has provided an occasion to reflect on the library’s founding and history, to connect with friends and supporters old and new, and to consider the challenges and opportunities that will shape our future. Open House 75  Throughout our 75th year, we have carried out a series of events, publications, and other activities designed to promote the library and its collections, programs, and services.  The first of our series of 75th anniversary exhibitions HIST 75H: A Master Class on Houghton Library featured a partnership with Harvard faculty, nearly fifty of whom selected for display and narrated a collection item of personal or professional significance. Now it is Houghton staff’s turn to take the stage with Open House 75: Houghton Library Staff Select.

Open House 75 showcases memorable collection items encountered by staff during careers at the library that range from four months to over forty years. A microcosm of Houghton in breadth and depth, highlights from Open House 75 range from a Renaissance letter written by Michelangelo and a missive stained by Hemingway’s sweat, to a moving instance of gay fandom and women writers on domesticity and revolution. Among the notable “firsts” represented are the diary of the first American meteorologist and an Edison lightbulb that illuminated America’s first electrified theater. Cultural treasures from Liberia and Japan are presented alongside everyday objects such as a Roman coin and a Panama hat; taken together, these and other objects in the exhibition suggest the rich variety of human experience housed within Houghton’s walls.

Keep reading →

May 11th, 2017

Julian I. Edison in Memoriam

Houghton Library is saddened to learn that Julian I. Edison (AB ’51, MBA ’53) of St. Louis, Missouri, passed away on Monday, May 8, 2017. With Mr. Edison’s death, both Houghton and Harvard University have lost one of their most distinguished and generous supporters.

Julian was the former CEO and chairman of Edison Brothers Stores, Inc., a national retail chain founded by his uncles in 1922.  He was truly loyal to Harvard, supporting the university in numerous ways, and was involved in many charitable organizations in St. Louis including the Barnes-Jewish Hospital and the Washington University in St. Louis.

Julian I. Edison (left) at Houghton Library in 2005.

Julian I. Edison (left) at Houghton Library in 2005.

Julian was a book collector of considerable distinction; his collection of miniature books was world renown both for its size and variety.  He was named one of “100 Top Collectors” by Art & Antiques magazine in March 2007.  The Edison Collection was the subject of exhibitions here at Houghton Library in 2005 and in 2007 at the Grolier Club in New York.  Julian was the author, with Anne C. Bromer, of the comprehensive and extensively illustrated Miniature Books: 4,000 Years of Tiny Treasures (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2007).  The Edison Collection was given by him to Special Collections at the Olin Library at the Washington University in St. Louis.

We at Houghton Library are especially grateful to Julian and members of his family for a generous gift to renovate the Library’s exhibition and events room which now bear their names.  The Edison and Newman Room was dedicated in 2005 –its inaugural exhibition was the aforementioned Miniature Books– and remains the space where thousands of visitors learn about our collections each year.  Julian’s understanding of the role of special collections libraries was key in this gift.

Julian’s enthusiasm was infectious and we will miss his rapid-fire questions on many subjects.  He never really ended many of his conversations and letters, but simply stopped them temporarily with the telling phrase “to be continued.”  His memory will be continued for many years to come at Houghton Library.

Thomas Hyry, Florence Fearrington Librarian of Houghton Library

William Stoneman, Curator of Early Books and Manuscripts and former Florence Fearrington Librarian



May 9th, 2017

New on OASIS in May

Four finding aids for newly cataloged collections have been added to the OASIS database this month:

Processed by Michael Austin:
José María Castañé Collection of Photographs by Agustí Centelles, circa 1936-1939 (MS Span 181)

Minimally Processed by Adrien Hilton:
George Antheil Papers, circa 1950-1953 (MS Thr 1601)

Processed by Irina Klyagin:
Elena Bonner Papers, circa 1930-2003 (MS Russ 134)

Minimally Processed by Melanie Wisner:
Thomas Buford Meteyard personal and family papers, circa 1849-1982 (MS Typ 1144)

May 2nd, 2017

Houghton Library, Now in Convenient Book Form

Houghton Library at 75Houghton Library turned 75 this year, and as part of the anniversary celebrations we’ve just published a collection of some of our rarest, most beautiful, and most significant books, manuscripts, and objects, entitled Houghton Library at 75: A Celebration of Its Collections. “We are proud to release this publication as part of a series of activities and events designed to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Houghton Library,” remarked Thomas Hyry, Florence Fearrington Librarian of Houghton Library. “The book displays a dazzling selection of items from the library’s collections, and is at once visually striking and intellectually engaging.”
Keep reading →

April 28th, 2017

The Houghton Gradual and the Choir Books in Malta

Dr Theresa Zammit Lupi, Katharine F. Pantzer Jr Fellowship in Descriptive Bibliography 2016-2017, Houghton Library

MS Lat 186, f182v. MS Lat 186 at the Houghton Library is one of a set of four surviving French graduals that were illuminated by Jean Pichore (d. 1521) and his workshop in the first quarter of the 16th century. The manuscript was recently returned to Houghton after being exhibited at Boston College’s McMullen Museum of Art as part of the multi-venue exhibition Beyond Words: Illuminated Manuscripts in Boston Collections.

The Houghton manuscript contains 200 folios and measures 470 x 675mm (including the binding). The manuscript is a Common of Saints and includes the sung Catholic mass in Gregorian chant for eight masses to commemorate the lives of apostles, martyrs, confessors and virgins. It includes ten historiated initials with decorated borders that extend beyond the initial on all sides of the folio. The gradual is made of parchment and bound in leather over oak boards. Its binding is embellished with metal furnishings including bosses, clasps and corner pieces.
Keep reading →

April 25th, 2017

John Lithgow: Actor as Artist

Exhibit opens showcasing ‘Trial & Error’ star’s talent for drawing as well as drama.

John Lithgow headshotHalfway through his freshman year, John Lithgow set his sights on a summer residency at the artist colony in Skowhegan, Maine. Hoping to give his son’s application an edge, John’s father arranged a private interview with the painter Ben Shahn, a formidable presence at this mecca for aspiring artists. Brusque and opinionated, Shahn peppered a wide-eyed, young Lithgow with questions: “If you want to be an artist,” he growled, “what the hell are you doing at Harvard?”

John Lithgow: Actor as Artist poster Keep reading →

April 20th, 2017

Pipe, top hat, and tails???

This post is part of an ongoing series featuring recently cataloged items from the Ludlow-Santo Domingo Library


Size matters! was the motto that Wilhelm Moser and David Culby took quite seriously when creating The Manipulator in Dusseldorf in the 1980s.  This art magazine is an impressive 70 cm long by 50 cm wide and marks the heyday of the photographic press before digital images and Photoshop.  It became a trailblazer for other extra-large photographic publications.  The Manipulator would take images and blow them up to extremely large sizes, in either black and white or color, and combine them with text focusing on film, fashion, art and design, architecture and often ethical and historical subjects.  This type of independent publishing carried on the tradition of Andy Warhol’s Interview from the 1970s which focused on celebrity and popular culture.

This particular issue featuring our friend the dog is no.19 and displays the variety of content one would find within the magazine.  You can see the larger than life advertising with this Moschino ad which was part of a campaign that Moschino, a high-end fashion house, ran mocking the elite snobbery or “fashion system.”  fullsizerender-4Franco Moschino was a designer that liked to challenge the fashion world and believed that it was a creative outlet meant to be fun and playful.  This type of advertising as art was a very new concept at the time.


Then you turn the page and are faced with these amazing reproductions from the French newspaper Le Petit Journal.  Both images have been blow up to the fill the full 70 x 50 cm pages.  And both people are being spectacularly attacked by tigers and an octopus respectively.  I’d say humans 0, animal kindgom 2.


They published a total of 29 issues and the covers can be seen as a kind of graphic anthology of the 1980s and have become somewhat of a collector’s item.  This is the only issue we found in the Ludlow-Santo Domingo collection and Harvard has no other holdings or issues of the Manipulator.

The Manipulator. [Düsseldorf] ;[New York, N.Y.] / Wilhelm Moser and David Culby can be found in the Fine Arts Library collection.

Thanks to Alison Harris, Santo Domingo Project Manager, for contributing this post. 

« Previous PageNext Page »